New Delhi: A total of 53, 467 mangrove trees in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat will have to be cut down to make way for the upcoming Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) Project also referred as Bullet Train, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday. Babul Supriyo, Union Minister of State (MoS) for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, tabled the data on the floor of the Rajya Sabha in response to a question from Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP from West Bengal Ritabrata Banerjee. The CPI(M) MP had asked the minister “whether it is a fact that the Bullet Train Project will cost the destruction of 54,000 Mangrove trees”.
The Union minister, in response, said, “The Bullet train project submitted by the National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHRC) is of utmost public importance for connecting and reducing the travel time between Mumbai and Ahmadabad.
The project involves of 131.302 hectare (ha) forest land in the state of Maharashtra and 5.847 ha forest land in state of Gujarat (Total forest area of 137.149 ha. including 24.137 ha mangrove forest area). A total of 53,467 trees of Mangrove species are to be removed as part of the project.”
The ministry informed that it is looking for adequate reforestation in a designated patch of land. “In lieu of land diverted and felling of trees, compensatory afforestation will be taken up in double the area diverted (274.298 hectares), wherein plantation will be taken up. Railway projects are not covered within the ambit of Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, hence do not require prior environment clearance”, said the minister. He added that as far as forest clearance is concerned, amount towards compensatory afforestation for the loss of forest land is levied and also for the loss of ecosystem services, net present value is levied from the user agency.
The government has promised that the first ‘Bullet train’ will run by 2022. The MAHSR project received cabinet approval in 2015 and within two years, construction had already begun. The government had earlier set a deadline for December 2023. However, Union Minister for Railways Piyush Goyal, after taking charge, announced that the government had advanced the date of completion by more than a year. Goyal said the Bullet Train will make its first trip between Mumbai and Ahmedabad on August 15, 2022 – when India completes 75 years of independence.
The total distance of this high-speed rail link will be 508 kms. The bulk of this link, 351 kms, will run through the state of Gujarat – the PM’s home state – while 156 kms will run through the state of Maharashtra. A brief track of 2 kms will also pass through the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli.